John Tabatabai: My Olympic poker mind

John Tabatabai resolves to make some life changes, taking inspiration from some Olympic champions and… Oscar Wilde!?

I was once told that form is temporary but class is permanent. If that’s the case, I might be forced to consider that I simply lack class. My bad run has gone on so long that I’m beginning to consider selling my tailored suits and swapping fine wine over dinner for cider on a park bench!

Unfortunately, poker is one of the few professions where it’s possible to work a 20-hour day, performing at optimal levels, and still actually lose lots of money. Anybody who thinks it’s an easy way to make a living can think again. There would be civil unrest if businesses decided they were going to take money from their hardworking employees every month, and it would surely result in a mass exodus of staff.

But somehow, despite my ongoing losses, there’s no sign of me quitting. I wake up, go for a jog, make breakfast (I can no longer afford cereal so I just have a bowl of milk), sit down at my computer, lose the equivalent of a family saloon car, and then go and busk for my lunch.

Inner conflict

You might be thinking, ‘Why do I want to read doom and gloom every month? Well, before you turn over, there is method in my madness. People often forget that one of the biggest hurdles in poker is the ability to manage the psychology of the game. I’m not talking about reading an opponent or getting inside someone’s head, I’m talking about the greatest battle of all – the battle with oneself.

Most conflicts in life eventually get resolved, but internal conflict – the battle to control your mood and temperament – is a constant one that can only be managed and controlled, but never eliminated and destroyed.

Now that I’ve come to realise this inner conflict, I’ve decided to make some alterations in my life that I hope will help overcome these trying times. First, I’m going to take a break from poker. There’s no point trying to build a house in the dark – wait for the light instead. Second, I’m going to change my routine and seek positivity. It’s important to remember that there are many less fortunate people in the world, and it’s an insult to even pretend that our problems are anything like comparable to the challenges of others.

There was one other thing that inspired me this month while I sat, played and lost – the Olympics. After what could possibly be the greatest Games ever I was left with an important message – that hard work, dedication and passion are not always enough, even for the most talented people. Sometimes an injury at the wrong time can be a barrier to success and glory.


In my mind, a bad run of luck in poker is the equivalent to an injury in athletics. Well, I am John Tabatabai and I am injured. But I will beat this injury and untimely loss of form with caution and respect. I will give myself time to recuperate and become a better player, and without resorting to substance abuse to dull the pain. And most importantly for you guys, I will stop devoting column inches in future to my personal woes! If all else fails and I have nothing positive to say, I’ll write about something so inspirational that you’ll be left with an almost orgasmic pleasure. Yes, if nothing changes, my next article will be entitled: ‘Imagine if I was Patrik Antonius.’

I’ll leave you with a quote from one of the most inspiring men of literature. In the words of Oscar Wilde, ‘We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.’ Maybe it’s my time to gaze upon the infinite expanse of opportunity that awaits each and every one of us, and find a shooting star that will let me hope, dream and maybe even win again.

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